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Miami (Ohio) looks for 2013 rebound

Jun. 03, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Editor's note: This is the first part of a 12-week series looking at the opponents for the 2013 Marshall Thundering Herd football team.

HUNTINGTON -- Most of Marshall University's football fan base only heard one thing about the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks in the 2012 season.

The RedHawks beat Ohio.

That resonated with Thundering Herd fans and is still something spoken of in the offseason as Marshall's faithful talks about the 2013 season opener between the former Mid-American Conference rivals at 7 p.m., Aug. 31, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Truth be told, though, that was one of few things that were noteworthy from the Redhawks' 2012 season.

Miami (Ohio) finished 4-8 for the second consecutive year with half of the losses coming by 25 points or more.

The offense finished 92nd nationally at 23.3 points a game while the defense ranked 103rd in scoring, allowing 34.9 per game.

The defense was somewhat similar to Marshall's in 2012 -- injury-riddled and couldn't seem to make plays when needed. That should improve in 2013, but the best aid to the defense might be an improved offense.

That, too, will be hard-pressed for 2013.

Gone is quarterback Zac Dysert, who threw for 3,483 yards and 25 touchdowns. Dysert was also the team's leading rusher, which is more a reflection of the running game than anything.

The most likely candidate to assume the quarterback duties is Austin Boucher, who is most noted for throwing for 333 yards in the 2010 MAC Championship Game win after Dysert was injured.

The unfortunate news for Boucher (or potential QBs Drew Kummer and Austin Gearing) is that leading wide receiver Nick Harwell, who caught 229 passes in three years at Miami, left to play his final season for the Kansas Jayhawks. That was announced last week.

So, the leading quarterback is gone, the leading receiver is gone, the rushing attack returns just 726 yards of output from its 2012 season and the offensive line has to replace three starters that totaled 97 career starts.

The good news on the offensive front is both tackles return in Josh Harvey and Zach Lewis, as well as left guard Marcus Matthews.

Defensively, the line has some experience after injuries forced several young players into action. Wesley Scott, who played defensive tackle last season, will move back to his natural end position while Mwanza Wamulumba, Austin Brown and David DeLeon will be at the tackle spots.

They will be called on to improve a defensive front that was much-maligned last season and near the bottom of NCAA Division I in rush defense.

In the middle, Chris Wade and Wes Williams return experience and leadership. Wade totaling 101 tackles in 2012 and Williams added 49.5. Kent Kurn could emerge into a booming starter as well with a vacancy at weakside linebacker left by the graduation of Pat Hinkel.

If there is one bright spot for the team, it is a playmaking secondary with lots of experience. Strong safety Brison Burris led the secondary with 61.5 tackles and three interceptions while cornerback Dayonne Nunley had 52.5 tackles, three interceptions and eight pass breakups.

Once again, much like Marshall, the lack of a pass rush up front forced the secondary into the situation of covering for long periods of time. With a renewed pass rush, the secondary will be able to pressure receivers a bit more -- especially with the depth.

Kicker Kaleb Patterson connected on 15-of-18 field goal attempts in 2012 while punter Zac Murphy averaged 40.5 yards.

The RedHawks are looking for their first bowl appearance since 2010.

Miami (Ohio) leads the all-time series with Marshall 30-10-1, but the Herd won six of the last seven meetings. It will be the first time the teams have met since 2004, a 33-25 win for Marshall.

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